Fucoxanthin is abundant in seaweed and is considered as a powerful antioxidant. It has been proposed to possess anti-cancer, anti-obesity and anti-diabetes effects. However, its roles in brain injury models have not been fully understood. The objective of this study was to investigate the neuroprotection of fucoxanthin in models of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and the role of the nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2)-antioxidant-response element (ARE) and Nrf2-autophagy pathways in the putative neuroprotection. We found that fucoxanthin alleviated TBI-induced secondary brain injury, including neurological deficits, cerebral edema, brain lesion and neuronal apoptosis. Moreover, the up-regulation of malondialdehyde (MDA) and the activity of glutathione peroxidase (GPx) were reversed by fucoxanthin treatment. Furthermore, our in vitro studies demonstrated that fucoxanthin increased the neuron survival and reduced the reactive oxygen species (ROS) level. In addition, fucoxanthin activated the Nrf2-ARE pathway and autophagy both in vivo and in vitro, which was proven by the results of immunohistochemistry, western blot and electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA). However, fucoxanthin failed to provide neuroprotection and activated autophagy following TBI in Nrf2-/- mice. In conclusion, our studies indicated that fucoxanthin provided neuroprotective effects in models of TBI, potentially via regulation of the Nrf2-ARE and Nrf2-autophagy pathways.